Ice Bucket Challenge met locally

By on August 27, 2014

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The gasp of air after being doused with ice water has breathed new life into ALS research by raising more than $70.5 million in less than a month this summer. ALS Association reports that 1.7 million new donors came forward in recent weeks to help fund research for a cure to the neurodegenerative condition better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The Ice Bucket Challenge asks people to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and post the video on social media in the next 24 hours or make a donation to ALS research, while also challenging as many as three people or organizations to do the same. Politicians and celebrities everywhere are responding and offering shout-outs to the people in their lives who can make a difference for those with the crippling disease, which attacks motor neurons and has an average survival rate of less than three years after diagnosis. The challenge even reached President Barack Obama, who opted to donate to ALS research instead of getting wet.

Dr. Paul Cox and staff of the Institute for EthnoMedicine, based in Jackson Hole.

Dr. Paul Cox and staff of the Institute for EthnoMedicine, based in Jackson Hole.

Locally, Dr. Paul Cox urged Indiana Jones and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead to douse themselves last week. Harrison Ford, who posted his video on YouTube called Cox “a leader in research on ALS from the Institute for Ethnomedicine here in Jackson, Wyoming,” and challenged three medical doctors. Mead said he was going to make a donation as well. He called Cox’s work “magnificent,” and challenged the governors from South Dakota and Montana.

Governor Matt Mead

Governor Matt Mead

Cox runs a cutting edge lab here where scientists are researching the effects of a naturally occurring amino acid on ALS patients. He is thrilled about the exposure.

“Most of the money is going to the national organizations or the United Way of ALS research,” Cox said. “We’ve raised about $15,000. But it’s really the awareness that is so great. So many patients feel so lonely.”

The Institute for Ethnomedicine is currently raising $750,000 for the second phase of a clinical trial of L-Serine, an amino acid that may block the insertion of cyanobacteria into proteins in the brain, Cox said. Cyanobacteria is a toxic amino acid that is linked to ALS, Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

ALS, short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, fist gained wide public awareness when New York Yankee legend Lou Gehrig died in 1941 from the mysterious illness that was later named after him. Now another group of athletes is creating a new surge of interest at a time when ALS affects more than six million people in America but is not nearly as well funded as its neurodegenerative relatives Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Steve Jones of Teton Gravity Research.

Steve Jones of Teton Gravity Research.

Pouring ice water on someone’s head has been around for decades in professional sports but often reserved for winning coaches in the waning seconds of the game. The Ice Bucket Challenge started gaining popularity earlier this year when a group of golfers challenged each other to dump a bucket of ice over their heads.

Chris Kennedy, a young professional golfer from Florida, dedicated his challenge to ALS research in honor of his wife’s cousin’s husband. And Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who has been living with Lou Gehrig’s for more than two years, made it viral when he challenged friends and celebrities to follow suit. He endorsed a number of charities in addition to ALS Association.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort jumped into the fray of the Ice Bucket Challenge last week by dumping 150 gallons of water over its executives and athletes like Lynsey Dyer and Tommy Moe. “As all things Jackson, go big or go home,” said JHMR president Jerry Blann. He challenged mountain collective resorts Aspen Mountain, Whistler Blackcomb and Mammoth Mountain. Whistler Blackcomb responded with another big dump and a video with a tantalizing stream of water. Whistler’s general manager offered to match his employees’ donations up to $1,000.

Jerry Blann and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employees.

Jerry Blann and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort employees.

While glacial water is not hard to find near these resorts in the summer, some critics of the ice bucket challenge have complained that the challenge is wasting water, especially in California where there is a severe ongoing drought.

Another common criticism is that the self-aggrandizing aspect of the challenge takes away from the ALS cause. But the money seems to be flowing along with the water, with the ALS Association reporting $88.5 million as of Tuesday and 1.9 million new donors. It will be interesting to see how the dollars stack up when it’s all over. The Four Seasons Resort tagged along with JHMR in its challenge, challenging its sister resort in Scottsdale, AZ, the Teton County Library and once again, Mayor Mark Barron.

Mayor Mark Barron

Mayor Mark Barron

“It is quite an impressive challenge in terms of its success, innovation and enthusiasm,” said Barron, who was one of the 1.9 million new donors to the ALS Association. He declinedto reveal how much he donated.

“There is that law that says that you can’t use your public office for private benefit. I’m using my private wallet for public benefit.”


About Julie Kling

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